Pop star and entertainment legend Cher says that she has rejected an invitation to perform at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia because of the government’s hatred of gay people.
In July, Russia passed a controversial law that bans perceived homosexual activity and display of gay rights in front of minors. People all over the world have been outraged by the policy set up by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and now Cher, who is somewhat of an icon in the gay community, is standing up against it.
“I can’t name names, but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show,” Cher said in an interview to Canadian magazine MacLean’s. “I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does.”
The 67-year-old pop star has been an outspoken supporter of gay rights for some time, and more recently, her son Chaz underwent female to male sex reassignment surgery. Cher says that her son’s transition was initially tough for her, but she supports him completely.
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“When Chaz first told me she was going to do it — pronoun problem, when he first told me — and the process started, I was so frightened,” she said. “One time I called Chaz and he had forgot to change his voicemail and it was his old voice. It shook me a bit. These are small changes that as a mother you never forget. It is the last taboo. It used to be against the law. Thank God we’ve come so far.”
Now, because of the anti-gay policy enacted in Russia, Cher isn’t backing down from her decision not to perform at the Sochi Olympics. She says in the interview that both Chaz’s story and the treatment of her and her late husband Sonny Bono in their early days contribute to why she empathizes with gay people.
“People hated Sonny and I in the early days because we looked and acted so different,” she said. “Sonny was always getting into fights — people would called him ‘fag’ and he’d get his nose broken — only because we were dressing different. And these were our street clothes!”
The Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia are set to take place this coming February.